Question: With school returning in the midst of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, what is the Association’s position on vaccination?
Answer: Let me preface this answer by encouraging any readers who have not yet been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to get both their shots as soon as they are able. Vaccination is effective in reducing the spread of the virus in the community, decreasing the potential that one will contract or transmit an infection, and, in the event that one is infected, preventing serious, life-altering or life-threatening symptoms. All credible medical experts, including infectious disease specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger, who has generously provided independent medical advice to the Association since the earliest days of the pandemic, agree that vaccination is the best way to protect oneself, as well as one’s family, friends, students and the larger community.
The Association’s position with respect to vaccination was set out by the Annual Representative Assembly over several years and forms part of our policy as set out in the Members’ Handbook:
18.104.22.168 The Government of Alberta should require all K–12 students, without exception, who attend schools that receive public funds to be vaccinated.
22.214.171.124 The Government of Alberta should provide on-site, voluntary influenza vaccinations at no cost to all teachers, school staff and students. 
126.96.36.199 The Government of Alberta should require all staff, except those presenting valid medical exemptions, who work in publicly funded K–12 schools and district sites that receive public funds to be vaccinated.
188.8.131.52 The Government of Alberta should require school authorities to help the Alberta Health Services Board implement vaccination programs and other mandated population health initiatives by
- distributing information about the initiatives to students, staff, parents and the school community;
- providing health care personnel with access to students and staff; and
- allowing their facilities to be used for delivering the initiatives, provided that the provincial government covers all associated costs.
While these policies do not specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic, taken together they establish a strong disposition in favour of mandating vaccinations for teachers and students.
The Association has not been aggressively promoting mandatory vaccination in the calls we have made to government to ensure a safe return to school. Our policy is aspirational, and, at least at this point, we believe that implementation needs to be done in a fashion that encourages participation rather than alienating teachers, staff and students (as well as the responsible parents of students).
Furthermore, in the absence of clear leadership by the Government of Alberta, we are attempting to convince school boards, employers and municipalities to implement a broader range of policies to contain the spread of the pandemic, including mandatory masking, surveillance testing, intensive cleaning and enhanced HVAC measures, as well as supporting voluntary vaccination programs delivered in schools. This broader approach is particularly necessary and important in elementary grades, where children do not yet have the opportunity to obtain an approved vaccine.
Please note that the situation continues to be fluid. As the pandemic, legislation and employer policies evolve, the Association will continue to monitor and communicate to members. Oh, and if I haven’t been clear, get your vaccination. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at firstname.lastname@example.org.